Two weeks of fugitive pink in my Brooklyn Backyard
The past few months of alternating cold and hot days have confused the timing of most of my spring-blooming shrubs. There’s usually a logical order to when plants bloom in spring, but 2015 has been the year of flowering all at once in May. Azaleas, miniature daffodils, columbines, bleeding hearts, bluebells, rhododendrons, even daylilies seem to be in a hurry to burst out in song. Me too—it’s gorgeous, especially when the lily-of-the-valley perfumes the air.
The bright chartreuse leaves of epimedium pop up in early spring, followed by sprays of delicate pale-yellow flowers. Blink and the flowers vanish; the heart-shaped leaves gradually darken as they grow throughout the summer and are a favorite perennial of mine in the backyard. Two Satsuki Japanese azaleas are never far behind in blooms. Over 15 years old, they now stand taller than I am, and for a couple of weeks their lavender-tinged pink blossoms dominate the south side of the garden.
A couple of rain showers is all that is needed to cause the azalea flowers to wilt and drop. Here it is a few days before Memorial Day, and the rhododendrons have taken over the backyard garden show with their frilly girlie-pink display. I’m enjoying having the Japanese azaleas and epimedium live on thru my paper and paints, especially the week I spent drawing and studying shapes and light before picking up a brush. My color palette has changed to include a cooler Hansa yellow, an assortment of magentas, and the not-quite fugitive Opera Rose. Opera Rose has an almost fluorescent intensity that belies the issue of its permanence as an archival pigment, but it hits the color spot-on. Used sparingly, I’ll put my faith in Winsor Newton and hope that what they say is true: that modern formulations of Opera Rose are more stable and light-fast than older, traditional magenta/pink pigments. I’d hate to see my work fade in the way that several of Van Gogh’s iris and rose paintings have (he painted with an unstable version of red lake).
The azaleas will be back next spring and I’ll make do with their bushy green leaves until then. Hopefully, even while blossoms and color fade over time, there’s always a beautiful painting somewhere to look at as a reminder of how spectacular spring gardens always are.
Arches cold press, 300 lb, 14″ x 21″